Which Assisted Living Community Is Right For You or a Loved One?
When Kate Garrett first started looking into Assisted Living
communities for her mother, like many who had gone before her, she felt apprehensive. The experience of choosing a residence for your loved one can be difficult--you want to make the right choice that won't create a major lifestyle commotion or put your relative in harm's way. "My mom lived in the same house for 30 years, so I knew the transition to an Assisted Living
facility would be difficult," explains Garrett. "But her health and safety was my main concern."
Garrett chose Highview in the Woodlands, an assisted living facility with a state-of-the-art Alzheimer's Care
unit in Northern Illinois
, because of its warmth. "The welcoming atmosphere [at Highview] helped my mom feel more comfortable," she recalls. "The staff helped make her transition as easy as possible."
At Highview and many other assisted living communities, staff members go to great lengths to work closely with each new resident, ensuring a smooth transition. Still, it's important to do your research before you make such a major life decision. For help with the assisted living decision, read on....
Understand What You're Getting Into
The worst thing you can do when jumping into uncharted waters is not know what to expect, says Theresa Spinner of the National Association of Social Workers. When it comes to an assisted living residence, picture a community with supportive services for senior citizens. These services are not required round-the-clock; they include housekeeping, mild personal care (such as bathing and dressing), and transportation.
From small homes to big apartment complexes, assisted living communities include amenities like kitchenettes, private or shared rooms, and group activities. When it comes to dining options, they range from personal eating experiences to meals served in a common area with other residents.
Visit in Person
Brochures make any retirement home look good--after all, most of these communities operate like businesses. They charge residents rent as well as fees for other services. "Be sure to visit the homes [you're considering] to see how the staff interacts with the residents and each other," says Dr. Marion Somers, a geriatric care manager. "This will give you a good sense of the true environment of the facility."
The elder care expert who authored "Elder Care Made Easier" believes a tour of homes - just like a tour of colleges - will help you decide which one is the best fit. Though it may sound sneaky, sometimes it's good to pay a home a surprise visit before committing. "Visit the assisted living facility at an unscheduled time," suggests Somers, "so you can observe things you might not see on the 'official' tour."
Observe the Residents
Not only is it important for you to see what assisted living residences have to offer residents, you should pay close attention to the potential neighbors. Ask yourself questions like, Are they well-dressed and clean? Do they seem content? Are they wandering the halls? Does the staff appear attentive to the needs of residents? What's on the communal TV when you walk in?
"For instance, if what's on TV is the type of show that the on-duty staffers like to watch, it may be the case that the needs and preferences of the residents are not truly being taken into account," says Somers.
Inquire About the Social Life
Planned activities and events are important to residents at assisted living facilities. "They're a significant part of keeping your loved ones active and sharp," Somers explains. Ask your tour guide or community representative if the facility has an event planner and/or monthly event calendar, and be sure to meet the planner or get a copy of the latest calendar.
Another good question to ask is if it's easy to access public transportation. Many residents in assisted living facilities don't have cars or are not comfortable with driving, but they can certainly take buses or trains to go to events off site.
Investigate Safety and Security
"Make sure safety and security at the assisted living residency is obvious and a priority," says Somers. She suggests only considering facilities that have security guards and medical care on-site 24 hours a day. "Alarm systems should be in-house, not an outsourced service," she adds.
Look for other safety features in the rooms, such as video monitors, pull cords, and safety bars.
Once Garrett considered her mother's options and did her research, she was fully comfortable with her mom's residency in an assisted living facility. Although Garrett first turned to her mother's physician for guidance, you can do some research on your own. Put as much effort in this search as you would buying a new home for your family.
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